UNITED NATIONS, New York, 19 April 2000

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, will visit West Africa for two weeks beginning on Thursday 20 April.

Mr. Otunnu has been invited to participate in the West Africa Ministerial Conference on War-Affected Children, sponsored by the governments of Canada and Ghana, to be held in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, from 27-28 April. The conference itself will be preceded by two consultations for regional journalists (25 April) and NGO representatives (26 April).

The primary objective of the Conference is to mobilise concrete action for child protection in a region whose children have been acutely affected by armed conflict. The Conference will focus on practical ways to implement and support international instruments of child protection, such as the African Charter on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the recent Declaration on Child Soldiers by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

In connection with the Accra Conference, the Special Representative has been invited by the government of Mali, the incumbent ECOWAS Chair, to stop over in Bamako (on 20-23 April) to discuss with senior officials the issue of children affected by conflicts in West Africa.

Following the Accra Conference, Mr. Otunnu will pay a brief return visit to Sierra Leone, together with the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Lloyd Axworthy. During the visit, Mr. Otunnu and Mr. Axworthy are expected to visit Murray Town Amputee Camp and meet war-affected children including former child soldiers, amputees and abducted girls. Mr. Otunnu last visited Sierra Leone in September 1999.

Concluding his West African visit, the Special Representative will stop over in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, for meetings with United Nations regional teams to discuss child-related issues that affect the entire sub-region.

Click here to read more about the Accra Conference.